Feel Art Again: "The Bookworm"

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In Unterpfaffenhofen, Germany, 200 years ago, Carl Spitzweg was born. Spitzweg's paintings, like "The Bookworm" and "Scholar of Natural Sciences," are perfect for mental_floss with their mix of academia and humor. So, to celebrate Spitzweg's birth, let's delve into "The Bookworm."

1. Carl Spitzweg originally trained and worked as a pharmacist, at his father's insistence. He took up painting after an illness, and was only able to devote himself to art after an inheritance from his father made him financially independent.

2. Since Spitzweg began painting at an older age than many artists, he was not formally trained. He taught himself by copying the works of the Flemish masters.

3. Spitzweg created "anecdotal scenes of narrow-minded bourgeois life in the so-called "˜good old days,'" according to the Milwaukee Art Museum. Many of his works are humorous, eccentric portraits (like "The Bookworm" and "The Poor Poet"). His first works were contributions to satiric magazines.

4. Look closely to spot the Metaphysik (Metaphysics) plaque on the bookcase. The object in the bottom-left corner of the painting is an old, faded globe.

5. While Carl Spitzweg is not a household name, his work has had impacted others. Edmund Nick wrote a comedic opera, "Das kleine Hofknozert" ("The Little Court Concert"), inspired by Spitzweg's work. Fritz Gruber designed a "placement game full of imagery" in which players must create exhibitions of Spitzweg's paintings.

A larger version of "The Bookworm" is available here.

"˜Feel Art Again' appears every Tuesday and Thursday.

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February 5, 2008 - 10:27am
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